Image courtesy of Paramount and Me!
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
Summary: A short story in my "Realizations" K/U series. Takes place during the last six months of the original mission. Kirk distances himself from Uhura because of his continued attraction to her, but Nyota grows tired of rejection.
She looked up from her stroll along the surf and saw him standing on the rocky promontory. His body was outlined by the waning sun, its golden death weeping rays of honey around his still form. She had known he would come and that both angered and excited her. It was exactly the reason why she had chosen to request a transfer away from Enterprise, and away from him.
They were in limbo, not lovers, but more than Captain and Lieutenant. Friends? Not in the normal sense; friendship implied communication and sharing, two things he had forgotten how to do--at least with her. Yet sometimes, from across a crowded room she would catch him watching her, his look full of longing. But that very sense of yearning made him distance himself from her, made him hide behind his command persona.
She kept her pace steady, not acknowledging his presence by quickening her step. She was on leave and her time was her own, regardless of who watched. He could wait.
The breeze freshened and she leaned into it for balance. The splash of the surf raised goose bumps on her skin, but she did not hurry. She looked across the gray water, trying to ignore the figure that did not bow to anything--not the wind, and not to her.
As she reached the bottom step cut into the rocky outcrop, she finally looked up and made eye contact with him. His eyes were shuttered, no anger, no hurt, no emotion at all leeched from his visage. Why did he do that? Shut down all expression when she needed it most? He stared at her, still unmoving, as she climbed to his level.
At the top, she stood before him, his position blocking her path back to the resort. He stood quietly in the quickening breeze, the wind making a mockery of his stoicism by dancing through his hair. Unnerved but unwilling to show it, she lifted her chin, quietly daring him to give ground--if not within his heart, then at least along the pathway. He did not move, instead he spoke.
"Why did I have to hear it from Spock?"
"How dare you ask me that? You, of all people should know it was the proper thing to do. I followed the chain of command." Her tone was cold, belying the heat she felt at his play for guilt.
"Is that why you're leaving? Because I've kept my distance?" He asked, surprised.
"Distance? Sometimes you treat me as if I don't exist. I can't take that anymore." She wasn't able to keep the hurt out of her voice; she didn't want to, she wanted him to know how invisible he had made her feel.
"I know you're there. I always know," he answered her in a rough voice full of halting regret.
"Then it hurts all the more. To be ignored when you know I'm right in front of you is too much to ask of me." She challenged him with a hard look. It had taken all her will to actually submit her transfer request; it would take more than a sweet admission to change her mind.
"I want you to stay," he pled softly, a wistful look finally breaking the surface of his eyes.
"Why?" She snapped, not making it easy on him. He would have to dig deep and confess feelings she knew he would deny if he could.
"I need you." That was not the confession she was looking for.
"Palmer does the job as well as I can." It was true, but she knew it was not the point of his request.
"I need someone who cares more than just about the job," he danced around the subject, saying just enough to keep her from brushing past him.
"You said you'd respect my decision if I ever chose to move on with my life," she pushed back; tossing words in his face from a night long ago, a night of healing from one cruelty, only to feel the first prick of a more insidious wounding of her heart.
"I said I would respect and support you following your dreams. You're running away, not advancing yourself with this transfer--you're hiding. Don't leave now, the mission will be over in six months." He spoke quickly, as if he were suddenly sure of his footing and seeking to capture her with her own words.
"You say you need me, but what about my needs? What do I get--more of the same?" She tossed the verbal grenade at his feet and watched as he backed up and reconsidered his tactics.
"I can't be someone I'm not. I treat you like everyone else because it keeps you near me and above reproach. Do you want to be called the captain's whore?" He lobbed his own bomb back.
"I don't deserve that," she spat out in barely contained fury.
"No, you don't, but it won't stop some from calling you that if I treat you differently. I'm not allowed a personal life on the ship. She *is* my life." He spoke softly, but in earnest, trying to press past her anger.
"You have other women in your life. I'm supposed to just stand by and watch you have affairs with them?" No, her anger was just beginning.
"They're not crew, or even Starfleet. Sometimes I have to use whatever is necessary to get the mission done." His tone was clipped; she had drawn blood.
"That's the most honest thing you've ever said--you use: strangers, friends, crew, even yourself--whatever the cost." Her eyes glittered as she cut him again. They would have to bleed out the poison between them before any healing could hope to begin.
"If that's what it takes. I have a job to do, lives depending on me." Fire lit in his own eyes; she was trampling dangerous ground and she knew it. How much further could she push?
"So, I was just a part of the job." It was not a question, just a statement of cold fact.
"I can't be who you want me to be. I crossed that line once to keep a promise, but I can't live a lie or a relationship of half measures." His tone was bitter, angry at her for pushing him to this point and angry at himself for admitting how he felt. "Yes, I want you. Is that what you need to hear? That sometimes I lie awake at night and it's all I can do not to come to your quarters? That I plot Chekov's course corrections before he does in order to distract me from your presence on the Bridge? If that's what you want to hear, then I'm telling you, but it changes nothing."
"I want you to smile when you look at me, not hide behind your captain’s bars. I'm not asking you to be more than that--I've accepted it's not possible--but I'm tired of being out in the cold. You used to joke and have fun with us--with me. Now, all I get are status requests and mission briefings. If you can't at least treat me like the rest of the crew, then please let me go." She did not cry. She was past tears; she just wanted the ache in her heart to go away.
At her ultimatum he looked away, staring into the dregs of the sun as it melted into the jagged horizon. His voice became very hushed, as if he yielded a great secret. "Please stay until the end of the mission. After that, I'll free you to whatever star calls your name."
"So, it's true?" She asked simply, knowing his answer before he spoke.
He sighed deeply, not surprised by her question. One of her many talents he depended upon--knowing secrets and keeping them. "It's been offered. Whether I have a choice remains to be seen."
"Isn't it what you want?" She asked, unsure if she really wanted to know his answer. What would space be like with him shackled to a desk back on Earth?
"Maybe--someday. Right now I'm focused on getting us through the rest of this mission and back home. And to do that, I need my best people beside me. I need you beside me." As the last of the sun vanished, he turned his gaze back upon her--a kaleidoscope of emotions flaring to life in his eyes--regret, exhaustion, frustration--yet what moved her most was the vulnerability he finally allowed. At last the immovable object gave ground.
"If I agree to withdraw my transfer request, will you try to let it be like before? I won't be branded with a scarlet A just because you smile at me or sit next to me during a briefing." She tendered the question carefully, uneasy about staying within the realm of a man who could hurt her so easily.
For the first time, a fleeting smile crossed his face. "You would be if they knew what I was thinking."
"If one were judged by what one thinks as opposed to what one does, everyone would be branded. We have done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for. One day I hope you won't feel guilty for being there for me. You were a friend when I desperately needed one. God knows that and Starfleet need not." She reached out and touched him tentatively, a gentle caress along his cheek.
"Now, do you promise to let me fight my own battles about my reputation? I'm a big girl and perfectly capable of handling such scandal as being seen eating dinner with my commanding officer. Or worse yet, being seen in his company on Movie Night in the rec hall." She pretended to be shocked and appalled at such licentious behavior, lightening the mood between them.
"Have I really been that bad?" He asked sheepishly, unable to look her in the eye because he knew it was true.
"Yes, you have." She answered honestly, sparing him nothing. While she could tease with him now, the pain he had inflicted was very real.
"You could have come to me, you know, told me how you felt without putting in for a transfer," he scolded mildly, an edge of a pout in his voice.
"Because you're so easy to talk to when you've made up your mind about something, right?" She chided drolly.
"Fine, point noted,” he admitted with a gentle huff.
"Good. Now, buy me dinner? I'm still on leave and I shelled out astronomical credits to make this one memorable." She dazzled him with her most winsome smile, waiting to see if he could once again relax with her in public.
"Tapped out are we? I think I might be persuaded to buy you a burger or something. I mean, as a show of gratitude for all your hard work." His eyes glittered in humor this time, quite aware of her game and dragging it out.
"I was thinking more along the lines of dinner and dancing. The restaurant at this resort *is* five star…" she upped the ante, waiting to see if he would bid or fold.
"You're really testing me, aren't you?" He laughed, taken aback, yet impressed by her boldness.
"Me? Test you? Why Captain, that would be behavior unbecoming. No, I just hate to pass up a wonderful dance partner," she grinned back at him in impish delight.
"Well, I guess I'm really the one guilty of behavior unbecoming, but please tell me it's not a disco," he groaned in amused resignation, shaking his head as he turned her toward the twinkling lights of the resort complex.
"Okay, I'll tell you that. Does it have to be true?"
A beleaguered sigh was absolutely no competition for the giggle that followed.